Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pack up your things and go

When I was in high school, I made sandwiches for Subway Sandwiches and Salads.  I started my career in sandwich art at Store 10882, but I really shined at Store 3035.  I transferred there as part of a reorganization of that store.  They were slowly eliminating some terrible workers one by one, as just (enough) cause arose, and replacing them mostly with workers from other stores.  I came over about halfway through the transition.

One of my eliminated coworkers was a girl named Robin.  She got in trouble for cursing at a customer.  One week she was on the schedule; the next week, she wasn’t.  She called me at work the day the schedule came out and asked what her hours were.  I told her she wasn’t on the schedule, and she asked me, rather politely, “Why the f--- not??”  I told her she should probably call our district manager, Dwight Schrute.

The next time I saw her was payday.  When Robin asked for her paycheck, I informed her of Subway’s policy of holding the final paycheck until the entire uniform had been returned.  She asked me why in three words that start with w, t, and f, respectively, and I confessed ignorance.  “Whatever,” she agreed and promised to bring her uniform back.  I held on to her $67-check.

A few minutes later, Robin returned with a green Subway shirt crumpled up like a snowball with a rock inside.  She pegged me with it, explaining, “There’s your f---ing piece of s--- uni-f---ing-form.  G--d--- I hate this f---ing s---hole.  Gimme my f---ing paycheck.”  I complied with her request and wished her happy trails.

Before today, that was my only real experience with existential process of termination.

Monday, October 26, 2009

NBA 2009-10 = a w e s o m e

If you are unconvinced of the NBA’s greatness, please read Mark Heisler’s column in the Baltimore Sun.  You now know why 2009-10 could be one of the most competitive and exciting years in NBA history.  Everybody has this one shot to make it count.  But I tend to agree with Bill Simmons: 2010 is the Year of the Spur.

That is all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ain’t Nothin but a 1950 Party

Because I like baseball, I’m going to post twice tonight.  With the Yankees’ 10-1 trouncing of the Angels, it looks like we’re going to see a rematch of the unforgettable 1950 World Series, which the Yankees swept.  While doing research to see how many times these two teams have met in the World Series I discovered something neat.

In 1914 and 1915, back when five cities had dual representation*, two cities presaged the patriotic Super Bowl XXXIX.  In 1914, the Boston Braves swept the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series.  Then, in 1915, the Boston Red Sox charged past the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.  So, Boston beat Philadelphia twice in a row, but with different teams.  I wonder how many times that kind of thing has happened.


*New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Life Imitates Me

A couple of years ago, I took a bus from Manhattan to D.C.  As we were just about to go under the Hudson River, I noticed that all the cars around us were like us: taxis, buses, delivery trucks.  There were no private cars.  At that moment, I had a brilliant idea: What if you closed off a city to all traffic except for certain licensed vehicles, like public transportation or taxis and delivery trucks?

I still think about the idea, most commonly when I’m commuting home from work.  (I imagine the press conference, with an almost-chic young reporter standing on the steps of city hall, “Thanks, Tom.  I’m here at Baltimore City Hall where---just today---the city council voted . . . “)  Tonight, I opened up my Baltimore Sun and saw some evidence that other people have had the same idea: “D.C.-area planners crack down on parking: Capacity cut, costs raised to get people out of cars.”  The article concludes by noting that Federal City has reduced its minimum parking requirements in recent years from 4 spots for every 1,000 square feet of retail space to just 1 spot.

I’m generally a fan of public transportation, but I think there are two things to keep in mind.  First, public transportation is either really good (e.g., New York City subway system) or really limited (e.g., Waco, Texas, bus system), and it takes a lot of time and money to get a really good system.  And second, like the right to own property, the right to physically move about (mostly) freely is one of the cornerstones of liberty.  I’m just saying.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hater of Earths

I just did the math.  It costs me less money to drive to work than take public transportation.  The proofs:

Driving = 30.6 miles round trip / 20 mpg* x $2.50/gallon** = $3.83 per day

Light rail = 7.4 miles round trip / 20 mpg x $2.50/gallon + $3.20 fare = $4.13 per day

It should be noted that I get free parking downtown.  Otherwise, light rail would win by as much as fifteen dollars.  I will further grant that taking the light rail would give me about two hours’ reading time each day and that the earth would love me more.  But at this point in my career---newly printed J.D. still smells like the calligrapher’s cologne---I sell out the earth for just 30 cents a day.



*I actually get a little better (usually around 23), but I wanted to give public transportation as much help as I could.

**Last night, I bought gas for $2.31 per.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Let’s Try This Again

Last week, I made my baseball playoffs predictions.  I was right about the Twins beating the Tigers, the Dodgers beating the Cardinals, and the Phillies beating the Rockies.  I was wrong about the two teams I hate more than any other in baseball: the Angels and the Yankees.  That makes me an unhappy 3-2 by my count.

Since I was right about the Dodgers and Phillies, my prediction as to them stands: I still pick the Dodgers.

Between the Yankees and the Angels . . . can I pick them both to lose?  I find that I hate both teams too much to want either one to win.  I am ashamed that the American League couldn’t come up with any one capable of beating either of those teams.  Ugh.  Yet choose I must, and I pick the Yankees.  Here’s why.

First, I hate the Angels more than I hate the Yankees.  I will catch some flak for that, but what is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular.  I’m taking a stand for individualism right here.

Second, statistically, the Yankees dominated the Twins just a little more than the Angels dominated the Red Sox.  The Yankees come into the ALCS with a Pythagorean win-expectation of 5.90 compared to the Angels’ 5.74, based on their respective divisional series.*

Third, the Dodgers and Yankees have a classic rivalry.  They haven’t met in the World Series since 1981, but before that, they met twice in the 1970s (1977 and 1978), once in the 1960s (1963), four times in the 1950s (1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956), and three times in the 1940s (1941, 1947, and 1949).  That means these guys have played each other for the world championship eleven times.  I’d be willing to bet that’s more than any other two teams in baseball.  The Dodgers have only won three times (1959, 1963, and 1981), but I think momentum can stretch 28 years.

The Dodgers and Yankees are the Cowboys and Steelers or the Lakers and Celtics of baseball.**  Given our options, it’d be nice to see that rivalry renewed.

And fourth, nobody wants a Staples Center Series.  That’d be waaaaaaay too lame.




*If you’re interested in where I came up with those numbers, ask me in a comment and I’ll let you know.

**Somehow I doubt Bud Selig is peeing in his pants for a Dodgers-Yankees championship as much as David Stern was for a Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals back in 2008.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quarantine: 4/5

Tonight, The Missus and I watched our third movie of the weekend, Quarantine.  Shot in the style of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, Quarantine tells the tale of a late-night reporter (Jennifer Carpenter of Emily Rose fame) and her cameraman as they shadow Los Angeles firefighters one night.  The firefighters answer a call at an apartment building where, it turns out, there is some kinda crazy version of rabies going around.  The apartment complex is quarantined off, and the scares begin.

First, let me say that I liked the premise of this movie.  I've said before, and I'll say again, that I'm not a big fan of you'll-be-scared-after-you-think-about-it horror.  I think the scariest premises are those that scare you now and scare you later.  Here, we have some crazy mutation of rabies running amok in an apartment building.  This is scary now because we've got these crazy rabid killers trying to get at our heroine.  It's scary later because we live in a time when genetic research on diseases just might be creating crazy strains of rabies and we don't even know it.  Plus, the film gets the nightmare bonus for some pretty stick-with-you visuals.  That said, the film does rely a lot on jumpy scares.  Still, three points for the premise.

Second, I liked the characters in this movie.  I liked Angela Vidal (Carpenter's character---really, I'm becoming a Jennifer Carpenter fan); I liked the cameraman, I liked Firefighter Jay, and the cop we got to know.  I even liked the landlord, the British opera teacher, and the vet.  I think the actors did a great job of bringing these characters to life and making them someone I cared about.  Each time someone died, I felt sad.  That, I think, might be the key to good horror, making the audience care when something horrible happens.  So five points for characters I liked.

Third, I'm not the biggest fan of realistic-style, first-person camera work.  Maybe it's your thing, maybe it added to the realism (which all horror needs to some extent), maybe it even added to the horror.  But I started the movie with a headache, and the shaky camera only added to my queasiness.  That said, the fact that we could only see what the camera picked up made the last fifteen minutes or so ten times scarier than it could have been.  So, break even points for camera work.

Finally, I love that this film is only 89 minutes long and that it tells a story 89 minutes long.  I hate bloat.  Every scene should either (a) advance the plot or (b) develop the characters meaningfully, and each scene should only last as long as necessary to do either of those.  Maybe that's demanding, but I don't care.  I don't have time to waste watching your self-indulgence.

If I leave here tomorrow

. . . would you still remember me?

I'm thinking of migrating over to Wordpress.  I've been playing around with it a little bit, and I might prefer its interface.  I also have an app on my iPod Touch that would let me draft posts without connecting to the internet. Big disadvantage: I don't think Wordpress lets commenters get notification of later comments without having a Wordpress account.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Scary Book 2009, Take 2

Well, The Dead Zone was a bust.  It's a decent novel with an interesting premise and maybe a few too many pop culture references,* but it just plain wasn't scary.**  At least not in the way that I wanted to be scared.  I want the kind of book that makes me scared to turn the light off.  Why?  I don't know.  Maybe just because it's Halloween.  Ray Bradbury has pulled it off, and Stephen King has pulled it off before.  But I'm not going to either of them for Jeremy's Halloween 2009 Scary Book Extravaganza.  No, sirs and ma'ams, that honor goes to golden-age-of-science-fiction author Richard Matheson.  I really enjoyed What Dreams May Come last summer, though I can't remember if it made me scared to turn the light off.  I do recall the movie having some chilling scenes.

OK, OK.  Without further ado, here is Second Chance Sam's Second Try at Being Scared for Halloween 2009:

I Am Legend (Millennium SF Masterworks S)

Sure looks scary, eh?  One early edition touted it as the scariest science fiction tale you'll ever read.  I shall be the judge of that, my friends.

*While I firmly believe in looking up words I don't know, I get annoyed having to look up a pop culture reference---for the eighty-third time---because I'm reading the book thirty years after it was published.  We sometimes forget that people down the road might not know everything we know as intimately as we know it.  If you want proof, play any version of Trivial Pursuit from before 2000.  And . . . 5 points for anybody who knows who Arthur Bremer is.

**Some might argue that it would be scary to be in Johnny's position.  Meh.  I hate it when people say things like, "The scariest part of 'Salem's Lot was how everybody knew something terrible was happening but nobody did anything but run away."  Bah, humbug.  The scariest part of 'Salem's Lot was when Jimmy, Ben, and Mark go vampire-hunting.  Well, really, any Mark-centric passage.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Baseball Playoffs Predictions 2009

The 2009 Major League Baseball season ends today.  The once mighty and foreign stRangers were eliminated a few days ago despite having the best record in baseball at one point in May or June.  That said, here's how I think things will fall out in the next few weeks:

American League Central One-Game Playoff

The Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins will engage in a one-game playoff in Minnesota on Tuesday.  These two teams have been playing each other since 1901, and the Tigers lead the all-time series by 75 games (1032-957).  But the Twins have won the last two years, both 11-7.  Finally, the Twins have won 8 of their last 10, while the Tigers have won only 4 of their last 10.  Ergo, I pick the Twins.

American League Division Series

One of these series will involves two thieves: the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  The Angels stole the AL West, and the Red Sox stole the AL Wild Card, both from the Rangers.  But let's get past that and look at the history.  The Red Sox lead the all-time series by 35 games (312-277), but the Angels squeaked by this season, winning the season series 5-4.  These teams have some serious recent post-season history: this will be the third year in a row they've faced each other in the ALDS.  Boston won the first two, 3-0 and 3-1.  The Red Sox also swept the Angels in the 2004 ALDS.  And, because the Red Sox won the 1986 ALCS 4-3, it should be noted the Angels have never beaten the Red Sox in a post-season series.  So either they're due for a win, or they're doomed.  Because I like the Red Sox marginally better than the Angels, I pick the Red Sox.

In the other ALDS, the New York Yankees will take on the Minnesota Twins.  These teams' history goes back to the founding of the American League in 1901, back when they were known as the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Senators, respectively.  For those two years, the Orioles won 22, and the Senators 17.  The Yankees swept this season's series (7-0) and haven't lost the season series since 2001,* although the teams split 2005 and 2006.  In their mutual playoffs histories, the Yankees beat the Twins 3-1 in both the 2003 and 2004 ALDS.  Those are the only times the two have met in the post-season.  But in the name of Kirby Puckett and all that is right with the world, I pick the Twins.

National League Division Series

The Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies meet again.  These two have only been playing each other since 1993, and the Phillies lead the all-time series by 15 games (73-58).  The Phillies won the 2009 series 4-2 and swept the 2008 series.  In their only post-season match-up, the Rockies swept the Phillies in the 2007 NLDS.**  The Rockies have been hot lately, and the Phillies have been cold, but I like Cliff Lee (who, also, has been cold lately).  So pick the Phillies.

And in the other NLDS, the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles play the best-of-five against the St. Louis Cardinals.  These teams probably go back to 1883, but I only have stats to 1901: the Cardinals have won 32 more games between the two: 951-919.  The Cardinals won this year's series (5-2) and haven't lost the series since 2003.  Their last post-season match-up was the 2004 NLDS, which the Cardinals won 3-1, on their way to being swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.  Before that, the Cardinals won the 1985 NLCS (on their way to losing the I-70 Showdown).  Because I am a closet Dodgers fan and I don't particularly care for the Cardinals (except Lou Brock), I pick the Dodgers.

American League Championship Series

The Twins and the Red Sox have never faced each other in the playoffs.***  Do I think the Twins can ride their current wave of success like the 2007 Rockies until they crash into the Green Monster?  Absolutely.  I'll do one better: I pick the Twins as the 2009 AL Champions.

National League Championship Series

For the second year in a row, the Dodgers have the Phillies standing between them and their first world championship since the 1980s.  Last year, the Phillies won the NLCS in five games.  Back in the year of my birth, the Phillies took the pennant from the Dodgers, 3-1.  The Dodgers haven't beaten the Phillies in October since 1978, when they won 3-1.  The Dodgers also took the pennant over the Phillies in 1977, also 3 games to 1.****  It's hard for me to pick which of these two teams I prefer.  They both have that lovable long-term underdog charisma.  Since the Phillies popped the cork last year, I pick the Dodgers as the 2009 NL Champions.

The Laker Series*****

The Twins and Dodgers have only faced each other in the post-season once: the 1965 World Series.  The Twins took the first two games in Minnesota before dropping Games 3, 4, and 5 in Los Angeles.  The Twins won Game 6, but then couldn't score a run in any of the nine innings they swung a bat against Sandy Koufax in Game 7.  Can the Dodgers party like it's 1965?  I'm saying it: Go Dodgers.

*Ironically, the second-to-last time they made it to the World Series.

**That was part of their remarkable run at the end of the 2007 season.  They swept the Phillies, then the Diamondbacks, then got swept by the Red Sox.

***How weird is it that that's weird this year?  Every other match-up has at least one post-season series between them.

****1977 and 1978 were twins of each other.  The Yankees, Royals, Dodgers, and Phillies all won their respective divisions both years.  The Yankees beat the Royals 3-2 and 3-1, while the Dodgers beat the Phillies 3-1 both years.  Then, the Yankees won both world series 4-2.

*****Five points to anybody who gets my obscure reference.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Carry on my wayward son

Because you come here to read thoughts you won't read anywhere else, I want you to know that the heads of us bloggers swell every time somebody does something like comment or link or even bring up the blog in conversation.  We like to feel that, in our own small way, we are contributing to the marketplace of ideas.

That is all.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The towels are kinda scratchy

It's that time of year again: time for me to read a scary book for Halloween.  It all started on Columbus Day 2005.  I had the dark, rainy day off, but The Missus didn't.  By coincidence, I had finished a book just the night before.  The mood was perfect for a classic tale of horror, so I pulled Bram Stoker's Dracula off the shelf.  For the next few weeks, I buried myself in Stoker's masterpiece.  When I turned the last page, I had been more scared and more satisfied than since I saw The Exorcist.  I read Stephen King's It in 2006 and Insomnia in 2007.  In 2008, I read The Shining.  Now, my friends, I burst forth with a new scary book for 2009:

The Dead Zone

That's right.  I'm entering The Dead Zone.